The Greybeard Chronicles | Age is just a number and other happy birthday lies
It All Began With a Lie
Today I turned 51.
And that is the first lie I have told today.
I woke up this morning thinking I would wax eloquent and pontificate on lessons learned in my first half century on planet earth. Now that I am 51, I can tell everybody what to look for in those first fifty years.
That's when I remembered that the birthday number is the first lie we tell ourselves to make us feel younger. You see, we ought to celebrate our first birthday as soon as we are born. Well, not as soon as...let the nurse clean you up and give yourself time to get over being pissed off about being ripped from the only home you have ever known. Then...cake with a single candle, birthday hats, a clown...the works!
If we did it like that, then, when we turned two, we would just be starting our second year, rather than being done with it.
I do not, however, know a single woman that would be in favor of this formula, so I won't push it.
Still, I can't talk about everything I learned in my first 50 years today. I should have gotten on that a year ago. I probably spent this 51st year unlearning about half of it anyhow, so go figure it out for yourself.
At any rate: I do not turn 51 today. I end 51 today and start 52 tomorrow. If you want to wish me a happy 52nd tomorrow, I won't complain about being celebrated two consecutive days.
Age Is Just a Number
I am constantly amazed at how old I am. It just doesn't seem possible that I could still have so much to do, still act so immature, still feel so uncertain, still have so many questions...and be this dadgum old.
I think it is because the body ages, but the spirit is meant for eternity. I am beginning to understand that the "old folks" I come across every day do not see themselves as I see them. In their hearts and minds, they are the young, vibrant, sometimes-exuberant, often-overwhelmed youth they always were.
So am I.
Still. If one more smug well-meaner says to me, "C'mon Brother Gene. Age is just a number"...
Does anyone else see the irony here or do I have to spell it out?
We talk about grumpy old men without realizing that half the reason they are grumpy is because we treat them like old (aka, out of touch, over-the-hill, no longer relevant) men.
It beats the alternative
Inevitably, when someone celebrates a birthday that has a fairly big number attached to it, someone will say, "Hey, it beats the alternative."
Yes. Yes, it does.
But weren't these same people just singing "I Am Bound for the Promised Land" and "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" last Sunday?
I guess we are all like Little Johnny. He was the only one refused to raise his hand when the Sunday School teacher asked the class who all wanted to go to Heaven.
Concerned, the teacher asked, "Don't you want to go to Heaven, Johnny?"
"Why didn't you raise your hand?"
"I thought you were getting up a group to go today."
You are only as old as you feel
God, I hope not.
If so, there is nothing the least bit linear about my aging experience. I am bouncing all over the calendar. One day, I feel like a lost child, wishing I could ask Dad which way is home and the next day, my hip is aching with the change of weather.
You are not as old as you feel. You are as old as you are. That said, you may as well "feel" good about where you are, because that is where you are.
But you don't get to stay there. You have to keep moving. Keep pushing forward. Keep going where you are going.
But, slow down. Take your time, because, amid the birthday lies, I found this truth...
The Journey called "Life" goes by fast enough without us hurrying it along
Every kid wants to hurry up and be 16, so he can drive. Every 16 year old wants to be 18, so he can graduate and be an "adult" and go to college. Every college kid wants to hurry up and get that degree and storm the real world with the knowledge and enthusiasm he and he alone in the history of humankind will bring to the world of adults and the business they conduct.
The weary adults punching the various clocks of the world want to hurry up and retire.
The singles want to hurry up and get married. The marrieds want to hurry up and have a baby. The ones with babies want the little farts to hurry up and grow up and stop messing their pants already.
Meanwhile, the retired people are watching the smug, young doctor snap the latex gloves into place so he can poke, prod and otherwise rob them of their dignity. They shake their weary heads and wonder why everyone is in such a big hurry to get where they are.
So, happy birthday to me. Age is just a number and mine is still pretty low. You are only as old as you feel, and I feel fine.
It beats the alternative.
It's a great day to be alive. Thanks to all who wished me a happy birthday. It is...because you are.